Tuesday, 21 January 2014




I grew up in a house full of sculpted animals but, paradoxically, my parents never allowed me to have any pet, with the exception of a goldfish I once won at a fun-fair. I remember playing with the sculptures alongside my stuffed toy animals; all were personifications of human characters, and sometimes, in my own fables, I happened to play as the animal I would most liked to have been. Mostly I wanted to be a sophisticated black puma, agile and elegant. Since childhood I probably realised how many analogies can be drawn between animals and humans. That’s why I came up with the idea to sculpt and paint my own ‘Animal Farm’, to take a look at the human I am from another perspective.

To find any possible recipe for human development (hopefully improvement) we first have to be conscious of who we are, of our deficiencies. I studied George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, an allegorical novel published in 1945, and probably the most brilliantly written political fable of the twentieth century. Adding a dose of poignancy and wit, Orwell’s book describes a revolution led by animals on a farm, reflecting events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917, followed by the Stalin era, and the Soviet Union. He also illustrates how idealism was betrayed by power, corruption, and lies.

This, not just literally, revolutionary book has inspired many artists. Progressive rock group Pink Floyd, for example, released the album, Animals, in January 1977. Whereas Orwell’s book focuses on Stalinism, Floyd's album is a critique of capitalism, and differs again, in that the sheep eventually rise up to overpower the dogs.

The Cobra - 'seek your values'

This is the only animal which I have sculpted that is not present in Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, nor in Pink Floyd’s musical interpretation. When we think about venomous snakes, two species come first to mind: rattlesnakes and cobras. The name "cobra" comes from Portuguese, meaning ‘snake’ (like ‘culebra’ in Spanish, ‘coluber’ in Latin). The Portuguese were the first Europeans to open the marine pathway towards India around Africa, and called these snakes 'cobra do capello' - 'hooded snake.' In many areas of Asia, cobra taming is practised and cobra tamers know very well the behaviour of the snake, which does not dance to the sound of music, but follows the tamer's continuous movements of the arms and knees, whilst they are playing a wind instrument. In fact, cobras don't even hear the music. Snakes detect only sounds with frequencies of 100-500 Hz, and only ground vibrations; they perceive through the bones of the lower jaw. Amongst the African species, there are the spitting cobras, like the black-necked spitting cobra (Naja Nigricollis), or ringed-necked spitting cobras (Hemachatus Hemachatus.) They aim with their eyes and can spit with precision to a distance of 1.8 m (6 ft), but the venom can reach 4 m (13 ft).) These cobras can launch up to 12 successive shots, at a pressure of 1.5 atmospheres, due to the instantaneous contraction of the muscles surrounding their venom glands. The venom is dangerous only if it touches the eyes, and, if it is not rapidly removed, it can cause blindness.

The key particularity of the cobras is shown through their capacity to flatten their neck into a ‘hood’ while keeping the upper half of the body raised in the air, so that their head area looks bigger when the snake is alerted. This can be achieved due to erectile prolonged apophyses (outgrowths) of the vertebrae, moved by powerful muscles that also stretch the skin, turning apart the scales so that on the dorsal part appears a drawing like a pair of glass, imitating two big eyes.

I think the symbology of cobras is fascinating. So many cultures perceive the cobra as a mystical animal. In India, for example, cobras are sacred animals. It is said that a cobra could dilate it's hood over a sleeping Buddha to protect him from the sun, and, as a sign of gratitude, Buddha drew those 'spectacles' on its hood. In India, the presence of a cobra in the household surroundings is considered a good omen. Beyond the religious aspect, it could also be a practical one: cobras exterminate mice and rats. From the four animals I have represented the cobra is sculpted on a larger scale, this is because it is in a way the animal I felt more need to create. The Cobra aesthetic is fantastic, aerodynamic, and mutual - when you detect and identify one colour of it skin tone, immediately the colour shifts into another shade. The cobra is, in my opinion, one of the few animals that could liquefy. When I stare at snake skin I feel the same as when I look into a dirty mirror and try to recognise unidentifiable reflections and finally have to use my imagination to invent the missing parts of the mirror. I am magnified by cobras and snakes, and their association with magic is what intrigues me.

In Mayan mythology, although cobras don’t live in America, serpents are described as being the vehicles by which celestial bodies, such as the sun and stars, cross the heavens. The Vision Serpent was central to the Mayans, who built pyramids to praise Kukulcan, but, before becoming their main deity, they called it the Vision Serpent.

The Vision Serpent provided a way to transport the dead into the heavens. The creature was the only connection between the known world and the unknown. The shedding of the snake symbolized the rebirth and renewal of a person, so this might be the main reason they chose snakes as their Gods. The Vision Serpent was depicted, most of the time, as a two-headed serpent, or a snake rising to the heavens and a spirit of an ancestor, or a human warrior would be emerging from its mouth.

The manifestation of the Vision Serpent stands in connection with Mayan bloodletting. One theory is that massive blood loss causes the brain to release an abundance of natural endorphins, which are chemically related to opiates. As the body goes into shock, a hallucinatory vision occurs. Once the actual bloodletting was over, the blood-soaked ceremonial papers were burned, releasing a column of smoke. The smoke provided the perfect medium for the Vision Serpent to appear. Every major political or religious event involved bloodletting, because it provided a medium by which the Gods could be called upon to witness, and actually participate in the ceremony. Sometimes the spirits of ancestors were also called upon to give guidance.

For me personally the cobra is the snake that symbolizes magic, and magic more than simply illusion. The sense of magic is also a way to connect with the divine. The perception of divinity is very personal, but essential to feeling alive. What I feel is missing, more than ever, in this moment in history, is the desire for being connected with the occult, primarily with nature, with the cosmos and the stars, as well as with the supernatural.

A new world has to be considered, especially now that we are experiencing the apocalypse of Capitalism, watching the downfall is not enough. I look back at the Renaissance, which from my point of view, was the apoptosis of human geniality in art. What was primary for intellectuals, scientists and artists was the cult of magic. I believe the greatness of some artists doesn’t lay only in the expression of their souls, their ideas, and their subconscious visions, the real master could look beyond. I am convinced that Leonardo, for example, was bewitching whilst painting and creating. That’s part of the truth of his greatness, no secret has to be decoded like some of the media today would have us believe. Magic was part of daily life in the Renaissance and we need again to believe that we can move objects using our minds to encourage human progress.

Sheep – 'naked truth'

Sheep are one of the first animals to be domesticated by humans and are widespread in every continent, they live mainly in herds. Sheep, lambs at a young age, have been seen through history as animals for sacrifice to demonstrate faith and obedience, and therefore to obtain the more highly prized favour of God. In Christian religion Jesus has been given the title of Lamb of God and his ultimate mission to die on the cross to atone for man's sin, is analogous to the role of a sacrificial lamb. Consequently, in Christian tradition the lamb symbolizes purification, renewal and compassion. For Orwell, in ‘Animal Farm’ the sheep represent dumb animals who believe whatever propaganda tells them, and they follow orders. The sheep, according to Orwell, are the duped citizens of a totalitarian state. A similar interpretation has been assigned them by Pink Floyd, for whom sheep represent the "mindless and unquestioning herd" of people.

A shorn sheep is, in my opinion, the most perfect allegory of naked human defensiveness. It is perhaps not a new statement, but the biggest analogy between humans and sheep is emulation, mathematically seen our society diktat to conform and imitate one another equates to the sheep’s unified mimicry in behaving & acting alike the flock.

Please look twice, because for my imaginative factory I choose an exceptional little black sheep. The atypical presence of a black sheep in flocks of white sheep was unwanted by shepherds because black wool was more difficult to treat, and of less commercial value than white wool.

I believe the black sheep is, out of all the flock, the only animal which does not feel defenceless, when left on his own. I think because of his diversity he is obligated to compare himself to the others and to get familiar with his rarity.

My advice is, find your naked truth by simply being yourself. Shed, and erase all that has been given to you through education, social status, sex and physicality, and discover who you truly are. You will never feel helpless again. I think for an artist it is very simple, just imagine to confront yourself with a white canvas, even much bigger than you, your first stroke of colour doesn’t lie and what you see will be you: be brave and proud.


Pigs seem to eat everything, In my own little Animal Farm, my pig has digested you; apparently swine also eat parts of the human corpse. The pig does, generally speaking, not have an especially positive symbolism, and is often associated with greed.

The pigs are the leaders in our society according to Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, where his three pigs who lead the farm symbolise the three Communist leaders, Marx, Stalin and Lenin. Where Roger Waters from Pink Floyd in ‘Animals’ considers the pigs also to be at the top of the social ladder, the ones with wealth and power, manipulators of the rest of society, and they are also encouraged to be viciously competitive and cut-throat to remain in power. If I would write a contemporary version of Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, I would say that, at this moment in time, the ruling pig implanted in all other animals a capsule of piggishness.  Consequently, in my visual representation of the pig, the sow is our society. There surely are a few leaders to blame, but also a whole social system has let itself become infected with greed; we are all pigs that constantly eat, digest  and consume ideas and goods that often lead to nothing else than making us purchase, consume, and eat again. It is a vicious pigpen circle, a cancer, but it can be beaten, the power of the human mind is endless.

Boxer Dog - 'I worship you'

The dog, considered a human's best friend, for his loyalty, is the guardian and symbol of faithfulness.

I chose to create a boxer dog, charmed by the strong appearance of a boxer and his severe presence. He is mistrustful of strangers, but harmless, and faithful to his owner. Unconditional fidelity is servility, and ushers a lack of freedom.

My dog has a collar, and marked on the neck, in fluoro-orange, I wrote ‘I worship you’, representing the subordination, the fear many people have of not feeling worthy of making decisions for themselves, this because of pure laziness, or mistrust in your own being. In Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, the dog, not to be confused with 'Boxer' which was Orwell’s horse character, symbolises the Soviet secret police, the subordination to power. The dog bells, guards, attacks if he has to, but dogs don’t rule. In the song ‘Dog’ by Pink Floyd the final verse explores a number of aspects of business life and how it compares to dogs' lives, for example, taking chances and being "trained not to spit in the fan", losing their individuality - being "broken by trained personnel", obeying their superiors - being "fitted with collar and chain", getting treats for good behaviour - "given a pat on the back", being better than everyone else - "breaking away from the pack", and getting to know everyone, but spending less time with the family - being "only a stranger at home". But there is more to the dog or to animals in general. In ancient Egypt the link between man and nature was very strong and, since pre-historic times, the Egyptians were devoted to Gods, taking the shape of animals.

As a symbol of duality the dog is said to have the power to walk within 'two worlds.' In ancient Egypt dogs were accompanying souls traveling from life to afterlife. Anubis was the dog-headed god of the dead. He played the role of guardian and caretaker to those who travelled from one world to the next.

At the time when the cult of Osiris grew Anubis underwent a sort of 'downgrading', becoming only 'the guardian of the dead.'

Nevertheless the role of guardian was very important and Anubis was judging and keeping a scale with which he weighed the dead souls with the feather of Maat. He was weighing the lightness or heaviness of the soul and if the soul was as light as the feather of Maat, the soul was entrusted to Osiris, but if it was heavier, the address was in the mouth of Ammit.

I find it extremely interesting how animals were associated with gods by the ancient Egyptian. This civilization probably recognized the incredible animal perception, a sixth sense and primordial instinct, we humans seem to have lost.

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